Alfred Hitchcock had a huge problem with women’s underthings.
The classic filmmaker had an almost fetishistic fascination with lingerie, but he couldn’t understand it as either functional garments or fashion items. Instead, he turned underwear into a symbolic emblem of shame (the viewer’s), moral failing (the character’s) and frustrated libido (the director’s).
If you were a female lead in a Hitchcock film and the script called for a lingerie scene, you knew you’d end up dead. Poor Janet Leigh, she could have made a fortune as a bra model after the Psycho actress rolled out of bed following a midday tryst with her lover, wearing only a bra and slip (seriously, what did Hitch think sex was?). Alas, a few hours later she was being chopped up by Norman Bates … a lesson for naughty girls that still reverberates 50 years later.
But for real insight into how Hitchcock struggled with the idea of women’s lingerie, take another look at Vertigo (recently voted the best movie of all time). Jimmy Stewart‘s BFF Midge (Barbara Bel Geddes) is a lonely bra designer and a loveless wallflower who dreams of romancing her disinterested buddy while sketching semi-naked women in his apartment. When she shows Jimmy a new model for a basque-like strapless bra, he’s completely perplexed by it — and utterly unaroused. She might as well be designing a lunar landing module.
Poor Midge. Poor Hitch.
Hitchcock’s cinematic legacy has grown substantially since his death but his personal reputation continues to take a beating as critics, scholars and psychologists excavate the tormented psyche behind his many masterpieces. Recent comments by Tippi (The Birds) Hedren detailing Hitchcock’s passive-aggressive abuses and sexual advances are as creepy as anything the director ever captured on celluloid.
All of which is a way of introducing the new style collection and photo campaign from retro label Fräulein Annie, which accomplishes the highly improbable feat of rehabilitating some of Hitchcock’s tarnished legacy, at least among lingerie lovers.
Fräulein Annie founder Frauke Nagel is a cinephile (the label was named for a Marlene Dietrich song), and for her third season she created a clever video called ‘A Thrilling Collection‘ as a tribute to the master of cinematic suspense.
It’s got everything you’d expect from Hitchcock — an ice-blonde temptress, shadowy lighting, a menacing Bernard Herrmann soundtrack, even a cool cameo from Cary Grant. Only this time, the lingerie pieces are presented as sexy and appealing, and the model doesn’t end up dead.
Watching the film, you can’t help thinking that if Alfred Hitchcock had seen something like this 60 or 70 years ago it might have been saved him years of unarticulated psychic torment — and protected film starlets from his chilling predations. Then again, we wouldn’t have Vertigo.
Here’s a look at Fräulein Annie‘s extremely stylish new collection of shaping garments and foundation pieces. The London-based label is available in a good selection of boutiques.